Photos and and interview by Ursula Vari
You might know Will Kemp from CW's Reign, or from Bravo TV’s Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce. You might also remember him from Universal Pictures’ Van Helsing or The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power or from Hallmark's Love, Romance and Chocolate. Dance enthusiasts recall his notable performance in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in London and on Broadway. Kemp's training at the Royal Ballet School gave him the much-needed focus and drive that allowed people to take note of his talent. From working with Photographer Peter Lindbergh on one of Gap's most memorable worldwide campaigns and commercials to juggling his dance career in the theatre and on-screen acting opportunities - his determination to be known as an artist is evident.
With a solid work ethic and as someone who constantly works on his craft, it was a joy to work with him on numerous shoots in and around Los Angeles. Because of the current pandemic, our latest shoot had to move to the virtual sphere in Kemp's "ivory tower" in Vancouver, where he was in the middle of a mandatory 14-day quarantine in preparation for another exciting TV project. I caught up with him on a Wednesday morning for our “virtual” shoot and to ask questions about his process.
Great to catch up with you. How is your quarantine going?
I’m actually really enjoying it! It’s mandatory for anyone coming into British Columbia to be able to work as an essential worker in the film or TV industry. My quarantine has been well planned and I have the support of the production company here in Vancouver to help deliver groceries and supplies. I have a spin bike set up in my apartment along with my yoga mat and resistant bands to keep active and in shape for work. The apartment is on the 40th floor with a big balcony so I get sunshine and fresh air. AND most of all I have peace and quiet to look after myself and prepare for the job ahead.
How has COVID affected you and your work?
It’s definitely had a big impact. The entertainment industry has been very badly effected and mostly shut down during the pandemic. Theatre has been particularly hard hit with venues and companies having to make redundancies all over the place. I was actually very ill with all COVID-19 symptoms back in March for 20 days in London, ending up with losing my sense of taste and smell for two more weeks which was a very strange experience. Although at the time there was no testing available in UK unless hospitalized, I tested positive for anti-bodies in May so all things point towards having had it.
What are you doing in Vancouver? Tell us about your upcoming project.
I’m lucky to have built up good relationships and loyalties in TV & Film so I’m not only dependent on Theatre work anymore. I’m about to do my third film for Hallmark Channel and second one with the actress Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls). It’s called Christmas Waltz (Premieres on Hallmark Channel & W Network Saturday November 28th 8pm/7c) and requires me to learn how to Ballroom Dance. I’m very grateful for the offer of getting back to work and am looking forward to the challenges that every job inevitably brings.
You have been in complete isolation for a while now without leaving your flat. What's a day in your life look like in quarantine?
Well because I knew I had to be dancing - originally only Ballroom but when the writers found out I used to dance they put in a few extra dance numbers! - I have an exercise/spin bike in the kitchen so I can keep up cardio fitness and I’ve been able to join you online for your wonderful virtual Yoga Classes four times a week, along with other online pre-recorded classes, which has been wonderful.
I decided to use this time to get into the best shape possible as I’ve not danced in a long while and have come out of 5 months of “Lockdown” in London. I train twice a day and am on a pretty strict but healthy diet. I learnt TM (Transcendental Meditation) last year and have found it really helps me cope with day to day stress. Being 100% in control of my daily routine I’m able to do the suggested 20 mins twice a day which I’m loving! I’ll keep this up during filming too as it’s a great way to recharge and keep sharp. A quick breakdown of my days so far looks like this: wake up between 6-7am, celery juice, TM, espresso & morning snack, yoga, smoothie, email/family catch-up time, research/ script analysis/ prep etc. Sometimes watch Champions League Football game (finals are on!), get some sun (vitamin D), talk to producers/writers etc. cook food (protein with steamed veg), TM, cycle for an hour (around 32k) while watching the sunset with an online GCN course, shower/bath, do laundry, listen to a podcast/watch movie, sleep!
I had an eventful morning the other day as I was woken up at 4am by a loud bang and a voice outside shouting. I went out to the balcony and saw a few streets below a huge fire engulfing pretty much a square block. It was terrifying and I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I ended up taking some photos & videos of the blaze and immediately reached out via Twitter to local news to find out what was happening. Police and the Fire Department had been alerted and were appearing on the scene. I ended up being interviewed on the radio as an eyewitness and asked to submit my photos and videos for news anchors and radio news programs covering the incident! Who said quarantine is uneventful!?
What are the important lessons you have learned during this pandemic?
I would say, like most people, I have had to question a lot of things that maybe don’t serve me so well in life. It’s definitely been a time of reflection and questioning and also of acceptance. I allowed myself a time of isolation and relaxation in lockdown with a mindset of just getting through it, not being too tough on myself and trusting that everything would be ok. I then went through a stage of “getting back on track” which has cultivated in me “getting back to work”. All the time juggling being a supportive husband and a father to a 12-year-old son & 14-year-old daughter. Lockdown in London was very tough on the kids and we have spent a lot of time navigating all of the problems and emotions it has brought up.
What is your routine to keep your immune system strong and your spirit strong? What word of advice could you share with us that helped you personally to stay fit on all levels?
Well, while I was ill with COVID-19 symptoms our research suggested that one should maintain a high dose of Vitamin C, glutathione, Vitamin D, Zinc & Vitamin A. I was also given garlic, ginger and turmeric in liquids very often and also doubled up on my Melatonin intake. I follow The Medical Medium’s (Anthony William) advice and have now been having juiced celery every morning followed by a “Heavy Metal Detox” smoothie. Coming out of Lockdown in London my wife and I did his 3:6:9 detox liver cleanse which was intense but awesome! I plan to not have alcohol for around 6/7 weeks during this period & so far that has proven very helpful. I get a lot more done when not drinking!
I’m a huge fan of Source Naturals and they have been supporting my wellness needs during this time too. Also, a huge fan of Saje, a Canadian company specializing in essential oils and diffusers. I’ve consciously upped my intake of vegetables and lowered my salt, sugar and fat intake too. But allow myself a good strong coffee and a morning treat. As I’ve mentioned I’m a huge fan of TM meditation, so much so that I arranged for my family to learn it together last year in Toronto!
You have a solid dance background. What has dance taught you that carries into your work as an actor?
I started training from the age of 9 in dance classes after school and learnt that in order to pursue something I loved doing and were ultimately good at, meant having to prioritize it over everything if I wanted to succeed. I would often “miss out” on parties or the opportunity to “hang out” with my school friends in the village where I grew up.
Professionally, I’d say that having a spatial awareness, understanding of body language and discipline in routine, learned from my dancing days have stood me in good stead working as an actor.
For someone who travels a lot a works and meets people from all walks of life tell us one of your favorite experiences on set that stayed in your heart!
Wow! Great question. I’ve been very fortunate to meet so many interesting and great people in and around the work I do. I guess something that resonates with me right now as I’m about to go back to work is something that the people I’ve admired and enjoyed working with all share. Leadership. The responsibility and respect that comes with being a good leader. Now more than ever it seems important to be kind and set an environment where everyone can be the best version of themselves and do their best work. If you are a lead actor you are present on set most of, if not all the time so your attitude and presence is a huge part of everyone’s working day (often long and stressful days) so it’s important to turn up well rested, prepared and the best version of yourself in order to not only do your best work but also do your part to lead the creative work space.
Family is very important to you. I had the privilege to meet your beautiful wife and your children and to also work with them. How do you balance work and family life? As conscious parents with your wife, what parenting wisdom could you share with us that helped you shape a balanced family ?
You are the only photographer to work with all of us and I’m hugely appreciative of your talent, compassion and intuition in capturing everyone’s essence so beautifully. The work/family balance is always evolving as everyone it concerns is also always evolving. I’ve been with Gaby, my wife, for over 22 years and we have pretty much worked through everything you can think of! Our daughter is now 14 and our son is 12, they have travelled with me on work trips and understand fully what and why I do what I do. I think they are well aware of the stress that modern life brings and that we are all doing the best we can to survive and thrive. During the lockdown in London we went through a rollercoaster of emotions and had to be able to listen and help each other through it. It was tough and exhausting but a very important part of us all being there for each other as a supportive family. This work trip is the longest time away since the beginning of the year so I’m sure that we will each have our usual “wobbly moments” at some point. With communication and compassion, we will pull through the same way we always do.